6 Ways to Deal with Disaster

Crises are different from voluntary change, because they’re imposed on you. They’re an enforced change, as we saw earlier.

There’s a Yiddish saying: ‘The gods laugh while men make plans’.

So while enforced change is never part of your plan, you have to deal with it when it  happens. Let’s see what you need to do.

When a crisis arises, some advice sites suggest you mediate, do breathing exercises, take exercise, go for a walk, carry out some visualisation, or do some creative writing. The trouble is, that’s not going to tackle the problem, only reduce the stress. If your house is on fire, meditation won’t put the flames out.

This book is dedicated to Agency – taking action. So when crisis happens, we have to act.

First, let’s not call it a catastrophe. Let’s see it as ‘just one more problem to deal with’. I know that’s easy to say. But it’s true: there is always a solution to any problem.

Let’s assume you’re the best person to deal with this, that you can’t delegate it.

If so, you’ll have to deal with the problem fast. Don’t put it off. Do it now. There’s a saying: when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Decide what your options are.

A family member has a health emergency? Call an ambulance.

Lost your job? Dust off your CV. Start job hunting. Do it methodically. Talk to people who might help: many jobs aren’t advertised, and someone who works in a nearby or similar business may help you get recruited. 

A financial problem? Phone the company you owe money to. Set up a payment plan. Companies love to know you are dealing with the problem. It will go on their records that you are in touch with them.

Health issue? Get medical advice. Avoid the quacks.

Car broken down? Do you have breakdown insurance? Can you call a friend. Can you get towed?

House problem? Water pouring in? – find the stopcock. Lights gone out? – check the consumer unit (the fuse board). House on fire? – if it’s a big one, evacuate the house. If it’s a small one, deal with it. Use a fire extinguisher or smother the flames.

Let’s say a key employee has decided to leave the business, due to personal issues. She has specific knowledge that the rest of the team, doesn’t. This will leave a huge gap in the way the business operates. The steps you need to take are: Be grateful to her for her work. See if you can help her with any personal issues. Get her to put on paper the most important aspects of her work. Ask her to help train a new recruit. Decide on the job specification. Start the recruitment process.

Interestingly, this happened to me. I called the employee, who lived 8,000 miles away. It turned out she was concerned about her country’s new tax arrangements. She was worried it would put her into a higher tax bracket and make her job unviable.  After some discussions she decided to stay on. Problem solved.

6 ways to deal with an emergency

  1. Stay calm. Getting upset or frantic won’t help. Your mind will be whirling with fears and a feeling of helplessness. You can feel overwhelmed.  Now is the time for a steady head.
  2. Focus on solutions. Get a plan of action. What steps do you need to take to fix the problem?
  3. Get help. Discuss the problem with someone else. Two heads are always better than one. But be aware that some people can get emotional.
  4. Learn the lessons. What can you learn from this episode? What caused the problem, and how can you minimise it if it happens again?
  5. Put a new process in place. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.
  6. Don’t catastrophise. Weeping and shouting won’t resolve the issue. Until you face the problem, it will hand around, causing you pain. Fixing the problem will give you the relief you need.  

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

How to Deal with Doubt

Doubt is a big trap for those who want to create change. It comes from a lack of self confidence, and the feeling that we aren’t competent or experienced enough to make the change. We aren’t the sort of people who do this.

We all know or have seen people who are more accomplished than we are. If you want promotion, you’ll know others who are more experienced than you.

  • If you want to date someone, you’ll see others who converse with that person, and who are better  looking or more suave than you.
  • If you want to set up a business, you’ll know how little you know about its practicalities.
  • And if you want to break away from someone or something, you’ll doubt your ability to survive without their support.

All of this can lead to a paralysis.

Some of us who want to be self-employed seek a work partner. I’ve seen that frequently. They want to share the burden, and get someone to be a path finder. They want someone who will be more self-confident than they are. In my experience it’s a limiting route, for various reasons. Let’s say you want to open a restaurant, and you partner with someone. Chances are that in a year’s time, you’ll be falling out with them because they have a different outlook.

Sticking with commercial ventures, many people want to become a franchisee. They know that the franchisor, the business that will sell you the franchise, will look after you and show you how to do it. All of which is true, but there’s a downside. A year after you’ve set up the business, and done all the hard work, you get ‘franchise regret’. You discover that the franchisor doesn’t do much to help you, that you could have discovered the operating procedures yourself and, worst of all, you’re committed to paying the franchise a hefty amount of money in perpetuity.

But at least such people have made the change. Many of us never get that far. And yet ask anyone who made a big change and they will say, ‘I should have done it years ago.’

People rarely regret making a change that failed. But people regret not making the change.

7 ways to overcome doubt

1. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s usually less than your generalised fears will tell you.

2. Take baby steps towards your objective.

3. Focus on the opportunity. It’s there, waiting for you. It’s your big chance. You owe it to yourself to try.

4. Get support. Find someone who will endorse what you want to do.

5. Minimise your weaknesses. What skills, knowledge or experience do you need? What would give you greater confidence? Amanda buys books on local history, enough to start a second hand bookshop. As a result, she knows more about local history than anyone else. She gave herself a practical project, recording the history of a family of stonemasons who owned our house in the 1800s. It’ll probably turn into an article in the town’s local history yearbook. It’s how she went from knowing nothing about local history to being an expert.

6. Accept setbacks. There will be partial failures along the way. That’s part of the learning experience.

7. Just go do it. Tell yourself you have to do it. Put down the book and do it.

There’s a saying: If you have  to swallow a toad, don’t look at it for too long.

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Are you biased?

If I asked you whether you were biased, you’d immediately say ‘No!’.

You might say you’re biased against racism or violence, but they don’t really count, do they?

The fact is, we’re not fully aware of how our brains work. Our brains process 11 million bits of information every second. But we can consciously process only 16 to 40 bits. That means we aren’t fully aware of 99.99% of the things we see and hear.

And that’s not surprising. If you had to fully review every piece of information you see, you’d never get out the front door in the morning.

But it means that almost everything you do and think is just based on preconceived notions, things that are tucked away in your brain. And that means you and I aren’t aware of our biases.

We’re especially prey to confirmation bias, where we look for things that support our beliefs. If you think you’re a failure or indecisive, you’ll filter information that supports that view. We reject anything that suggests the opposite. When that happens, you need to ask yourself, is this really true, or is it just my brain agreeing with what it’s used to thinking?

Then there’s the status quo bias. We’re happier staying where we are, rather than moving forward into the unknown. It’s the same as loss aversion, where we hate to lose what we’ve got now rather than win a better future.

The well travelled road effect is where we over-estimate the time it will take get to less familiar places, while doing the reverse for routes we know.

Think now about the challenge of making the change. The planning fallacy is where we underestimate how long it will take us to achieve something. And when we find it takes much longer, we give up. It’s important to recognise that achieving something of value can take time, and stick with it. Don’t give up half way through!

    Self handicapping is where we avoid risking our self esteem by not taking action. It prevents us from losing face. If you think you might fail to achieve change, you might put blocks in the way, for example through procrastinating.

Gosh, that’s a lot of negative possibilities! There are countervailing biases, ones that lead to over-confidence. As he walked around the line of troops who were diving for cover, the US Civil War General John Sedgwick remonstrated with them: ‘They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance’.  At that point a sharpshooter’s bullet hit him in the head, killing him instantly.

But this book is mostly about plucking up the courage to take action, rather than ducking for cover.

Now fill out the table below. It will help you overcome any hidden biases.

You can download a fillable Word document here: Bias quiz.


Type of bias Solution Does this apply to you? If so, how? How will you overcome it?
Confirmation bias, looking for things that support our sometimes negative beliefs. Try to see the world as it is, rather than how you would like it to be.  
Status quo bias. Are you happier staying where you are, rather than moving forward into the unknown? Embrace the future. It will challenge you, but also liberate you.  
Loss aversion. Would you hate to lose what you’ve got now rather than win a better future? Accept that your new life will be different and better, and that it may involve the loss of what you’re familiar with.  
The well-travelled road effect. Do you over-estimate how long it will take you to achieve your change? The longest journey starts with the smallest first step.  
Planning fallacy.  By contrast, are you likely to give up half way through your change project, when you find it takes longer than you expected! Don’t give up!  
Self-handicapping is where we avoid risking our self-esteem by not taking action. It prevents us from losing face. If you think you might fail to achieve change, you might put blocks in the way, for example through procrastinating. Self-destructive behaviour will hold you back. Accept that partial failure affects us all. It is a learning experience.  

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Ask for permission or apologise afterwards?

When a wagon blocked a bridge during General Patton’s 1943 Sicily offensive, holding up his forces, Patton personally shot the animals and had them pushed off the bridge.

Elsewhere in the war, Patton moved at lightning speed.  He had supreme confidence in himself, and masses of Agenc, more than most of us.

But we can use him as an example (albeit a flawed one) of how to succeed.  You’ll move as fast as you can make decisions. In other words, if you dither, you won’t move forward.

Many of us feel we need to ask permission to do things. And it’s clear that the people who gained success in life didn’t do that.

How does this apply to you? It depends on who you’re up against. If you live or work in a negative, hierarchical environment, and you ask permission, it will often be denied. So asking for forgiveness may be the best route.

By contrast, in an outward looking, entrepreneurial work place, it may be better  to get others on board before you act. 

In general, you should act decisively and apologise for it later, if you get it wrong. It’s better than delaying by asking permission which is likely to be denied.

Many TV police shows involve a maverick officer deciding to do it their way, rather than playing by the rules. It gets them into trouble with their boss. But eventually the officer is found to have done the right thing. If you ask permission, a boss will usually refuse it, because for them the risks of inaction are much less than the impact of failure.

When it comes to decisions that affect only you, you have to act decisively. Those around you may tell you the risk is great, and you’re better off where you are. Sometimes you have to be General Patton, and just do it.

Patton also said: ‘When there is fear of failure, there will be failure’. In other words, if you’re worried about failing, you won’t take the risk. You have to commit to change, and accept that you might fail. But for most things, it’s only ever a partial, limited failure. Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ is a good motto.


Old self, new self

Are you waiting for permission to act? Here’s the thing. No one will give you permission. Only you can give yourself permission. Most of the people you know will have a fixed view of who you are. Let’s call it ‘your old self’.  It’s almost impossible for any of them to see ‘your new self’.

Could your old self achieve the change you have in mind? No. So people can’t visualise it. They are likely to be negative.

And if confronted with the new you, they may be defensive. You might become bigger than them. It might diminish them. Your move will disrupt the status quo.

You might have one or two close friends who will support you If so, you’re fortunate. And you’ve chosen your friends well. They will be your cheerleaders. But many of us don’t have that.

Now take the ‘Old self, New self’ test.

You can download a copy of the test here: Old Self New Self quiz


Old Self, New Self
How would other people would describe your current (old) self? What would they say about you?
Imagine you made the change you want. How would someone describe your new self? What difference would they see?
How would the difference make you feel?
What’s the first step to becoming ‘your new self’?


Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

It’s OK to be competitive

Many of us think it’s bad to be competitive. In particular some women have been brought up to think competitiveness is aggressive. It’s certainly the opposite of being collaborative and supportive. It’s not what nice girls do.

But competitiveness and collaboration can co-exist. And subordinating your competitive spirit can lock you out of success.

My parents once sent me to a pony club camp. Yup, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. It wasn’t an aristocratic, land-owning type of upbringing, just a middle-class lifestyle in a very rural area.

On the final day, there was to be a race. I said I wasn’t going to participate. My dad was a bit shocked. Her asked me why I wouldn’t ‘join in with the fun’. I said it was because I wasn’t going to win. I was one of the youngest children there, and my pony was small.

My dad said ‘It’s the taking part that matters.’ ‘No’, I replied, ‘it’s the winning that counts.’ And I refused to enter the race.

My father was from a generation that believed in being part of a team, and joining in. For whatever reason I didn’t have those values, and they’ve stayed with me. It may be an unattractive trait in some people’s eyes. But if you want to create change, you have to make it happen. It requires determination.


Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Why failure leads to freedom

My good fortune came from being rejected

My biggest success arose from failure. I had a book on copywriting published, and was wondering what to do next. I noticed a writer’s magazine was selling courses, so I wrote and offered them a course on copywriting.

I got a one-line reply saying they already had such a course. I reckon they confused copywriting (writing to persuade) with copy editing (improving an existing text).

So I created the course myself, and advertised it in their magazine. Much to my surprise, people started to buy it. I will be eternally grateful for that magazine’s rejection, because my life would have been different – and worse – if they’d said yes.

It just goes to show that failure doesn’t matter. Failure can be a good thing. Each failure takes you one step closer to success.

And every successful person has experienced epic failures. Many musicians, actors and singers have quoted the line: ‘I’m a 40 years overnight success.” Tobias Lutke, founder of Shopify, which has revenues of £3bn, said: It took about 10 years’ time for Shopify to be an overnight success.

Talking about her life before Harry Potter, author J K Rowling said: “I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”


The dip

Many people give up just before they succeed, according to Seth Godin. He calls it ‘The Dip’ – the period after you’ve done all the hard work, when nothing seems to work, and you abandon the project. That’s not surprising. Human beings are enterprising, and if one thing doesn’t work, we’ll try something different.

But the Dip might be a Cul de Sac, as Godin says, a dead end. And how do you tell the difference? You need to give it long enough. I tell my learners to expect 1,000 days of hunger, by which I mean you can’t judge success in self-employment before three years are up.

I also see failure as getting one step closer to success. Clayton Christensen, an innovation expert at Harvard says 30,000 new products are launched every year and 95% of them fail. But if we take 10% as a more realistic goal, I have to come up with 10 ideas for one of them to succeed.



Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Stay calm. Anger doesn’t help

Do you get angry with your partner, your family or your boss?

Anger wouldn’t be surprising, for all the reasons we discuss in this book. People know how to jerk your chain. Family members may do it because that’s what they’ve always done. And work has its stresses.

But is your anger getting you anywhere? Is it productive? If it’s the first step on the road to change, that’s good. But if you simply explode and take it out on the dog, that’s not helpful.

Anger is wasted effort. It’s misdirected emotion.

As Maureen Potter, the Irish actor and music hall star, would say to her irate stage family: ‘Save our breath to cool your porridge.’

It comes from the amygdala, your reptile brain. It’s the earliest part of your brain, formed when life was about living and dying, and not much else. The amygdala offers you only flight or fight; it’s a simplified version of yourself.


4 Ways to Harness Rage and Convert it into ‘Agenc‘

1. Recognise that you’re angry. Feel the emotion. Get used to knowing it. Feel it welling up inside you.

2. Manage the anger. Avoid a knee-jerk reaction. Step away from the cause. Leave the room. Shouting at someone won’t solve the problem. They’ll only say to themselves, ‘There he goes again.’

3. Write down what caused it. Identify the Who, What, Why and When it happened.

4. Formulate an Agency plan. Write down what steps you need to take. You might need to have a conversation with that person when you feel calm. Or, if you’ve tried that in the past, you maybe need to find a new way of living, such as a new job or living away from the person who angered you.

Stay calm. Stay in control


Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Killing those Ants (automatic negative thoughts)

As well as being busy little creatures, Ants are ‘Automatic Negative Thoughts’.

They’re the self-defeating thoughts that pop into your head when an opportunity presents itself.

Offered promotion? Better not take it. It’ll involve more work, say the Ants.

Fancy someone? They’re out of my class, say the Ants.

Stand up to the boss? It’ll only cause problems, they say.

So it’s good to stop for a moment and ask yourself which ones you have. Here are mine:

  • I’m not very practical
  • I’m a bit disorganised
  • I’m not good in the mornings
  • I can’t be bothered with small details
  • I’m not good at dealing with other people
  • I don’t get involved with management-type issues

Hmm, that’s a lot of negative thoughts. They’ll stop me achieving a range of things, from putting up pictures on the wall to dealing properly with problem people in my life. I need to replace them with more positive thoughts.


What about your Ants?

Write a list of them here. Take time over this. Come back and add to it when you find a voice in your head saying something that limits you.

There’s a fillable form here: My list of Ants form

And write and tell me about your list. I’m interested in hearing from you.


Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

There’s no such word as ‘Can’t’

My dad got irritable if I said I couldn’t do something. He said ‘There’s no such word as ‘Can’t’.

But we all have things we ‘can’t’ do. Here are some of mine:

  • I can’t do DIY. It depresses me. I hate big DIY stores; the sight of tools and the thought of all that sawing and nailing makes me feel tired.
  • I don’t do modern jazz, or country and western music.
  • I have no affinity with certain counties of England. Likewise, some states of America and some countries in Europe.
  • I’m an introvert. I don’t much like being in a room with lots of people.
  • I’m not a manager. I leave that dull stuff to other people.
  • I used not do emotion. But I’m better at that now.

I hear other people expressing similar limitations.

  • An author on a podcast said, ‘I’m a writer. I don’t do marketing’.
  • Someone I know won’t drive outside his home town, and he won’t go to a small city, not even for a family Christmas.

And that gives us a fixed persona. It limits us.

All of which means you won’t achieve personal change, if your self-identity gets in the way.

Your identity contains many elements.

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits said, behaviour change starts with identity change: ‘You need to start believing new things about yourself’. You may have ingrained, possibly false, beliefs about yourself.

You may say, ‘I’m not the kind of person who…’ Or ‘We aren’t the type of family that….’ These are restrictive values. And they quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Henry Ford said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right’. 

In a study by two Harvard professors, teachers were told that certain primary school students were bright, while a control group was, for ethical reasons, not labelled. At the end of the study, those who were described as ‘intelligent’ had achieved much greater gains in their IQ points.

This was doubtless because teachers probably told them they were bright, and paid them more attention. The study has its critics, and has not been replicated. But maybe it contains a grain of truth. We take on certain characteristics. We become who we think we are.

A study published in Science Translational Medicine tested how people reacted to migraine pain. One group took a migraine drug labelled with the drug’s name, while another took a placebo labelled “placebo.” The researchers found the placebo was 50% as effective as the real drug to reduce pain after a migraine attack. In other words, your opinions can lift you up or bring you down.

Now complete the worksheet below. It requires thought and self-examination, so you will need at least 10 minutes.

There’s an editable version here: Identity Worksheet

Identity Worksheet  

How do people who know you define you?  



If you would have to define your identity in front of a crowd, what would you say?



What are your strengths, the positive aspects of your identity?  



What are the weakness or negative aspects of your identity?  



Write down the changes to your identity that would help you achieve change?  




Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

You Don’t Need Luck, Just Pluck

Some people think they’re dogged by bad luck, while others think they’re lucky.

Truth is, neither is right. And here’s why.

In an experiment done by Richard Wiseman in The Luck Factor, he discovered that people who considered themselves lucky hadn’t noticed the steps they’d taken to succeed. One woman talked about how she ‘just happened’ to find a partner one evening, ‘quite by accident’. But she omitted to say that she regularly went out to social events and mixed with people.

Others, who stayed at home and watched TV, thought they were ‘unlucky’, because good things didn’t happen to them.

The lesson here is that we make our own luck. 

And ‘Bad luck’ can sometimes happen because we’ve made bad choices.

So, if you haven’t been successful in the things you have tried, you may not have failed enough times.

What I mean is, most things fail. You have to try a great many in order to succeed. Whether it’s finding a partner, setting up a new business venture or applying for jobs, you have to meet enough people, try enough business ideas, or apply for enough jobs.

And you have to do each of them right. If you put off prospective partners by your attitude, you won’t succeed. Some people give off negative vibes. They may be tense,  nervous, or stand-offish. They may have defensive body language, be involved with their phone, or seem bored.

Are you applying for a job, and getting nowhere? That could be for many reasons. If you get interviews, that’s a good sign, so you don’t have anything to worry about. Just keep persevering. If you aren’t being invited to an interview, it’s time to review what you’re doing.

As for new business ventures, I’ve had more failures than most people have had hot dinners. And I’m still looking and trying things. I remind myself you only need one idea to work, and it’ll support you for a long time. Many of my ideas simply don’t capture other people’s imagination. It’s a shame. I think they’re wrong. But there’s nothing I can do about it.

Now do the ‘Luck not Pluck’ Worksheet. You’ll find it here: Luck not Pluck Worksheet


Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.